The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference Tuesday morning to release details on the officer-involved shooting that occurred Friday night on the Martin’s Ferry Bridge near Weitchpec.
Sheriff William Honsal confirmed three officers have been placed on administrative leave due to their involvement in the case pending further investigation. He identified them as:
- Corporal Max Soeth
- Deputy Nathan Cumbow
- Deputy Tismil Matilton
According to Honsal, officers had been patrolling the area when they came across a suspicious vehicle parked in the eastbound lane on Martins Ferry Bridge. As they approached the car, the suspect in the case — George Robbins, a night watchman from Hoopa working for Kapel Construction at the time — brandished a firearm at officers. Officers Soeth and Cumbow quickly exited their vehicle and fired at Robbins. Robbins complied with the officers’ request to show them his hands and was taken into custody.
Honsal said Robbins later told officers he pointed the gun — a 44. caliber Ruger Magnum handgun — because he thought the approaching vehicle was his cousin “messing with him.”
In all 22 rounds were fired during the incident — 16 by Soeth and 6 by Cumbow. Robbins sustained minor injuries to his face and left shoulder though it’s unclear whether he was struck by law enforcement’s bullets. Robbin’s firearm contained two spent shell casings but it’s unclear if he fired on officers. No officers were injured.
The case is currently under investigation by the State Department of Justice, Eureka Police Department, Arcata Police Department, the Critical Incident Response Team and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office.
Sheriff Honsal provided further details on the incident which the Outpost will update with shortly.
UPDATE, 12:20 p.m.: Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office press release with details about the incident below:
On July 14, 2017, at approximately 21:57 hours, three deputies with the Sheriff’s Office were on patrol in two marked patrol vehicles in the area Highway 169 North of Weitchpec. The deputies were in full Sheriff’s Office patrol uniforms driving marked patrol vehicles.
As the deputies turned from Highway 169 on to Martin Ferry Bridge they observed a vehicle on the left side of the roadway facing them. The vehicle was stopped in the roadway and the parking lights appeared to be on. The suspicious vehicle was illuminated with the patrol car spot lights and headlights.
As the patrol vehicle was slowing down within two car lengths, the passenger side Corporal, Max Soeth, observed the solo occupant of the vehicle, point a firearm at his direction. Corporal Soeth yelled “gun” and Deputy Nathan Cumbow immediately stopped the vehicle and put the patrol car in park. Corporal Soeth exited the patrol vehicle and retreated to a position of cover, as he was removing his firearm. Corporal Soeth yelled “Sheriff’s Office, show me your hands!” He looked over his passenger side door and observed the driver pointing the gun in his direction. Corporal Soeth then fired his weapon because he was in fear of his life and the life of his partner.
Deputy Cumbow advised he heard Corporal Soeth yell “gun.” He observed the driver pointing a handgun at him. He put the car in park and removed his seatbelt as he exited the patrol car. Deputy Cumbow then exited the patrol car and shot at the driver for fear for his life. A total of 22 rounds were fired.
Corporal Soeth again yelled at the driver to show his hands. The driver immediately put up his hands and exited the car. The driver was identified as George Robbins from Hoopa. He was taken into custody without further incident.
A .44 caliber Ruger handgun was discovered in the vehicle. The handgun was loaded with six rounds and two were spent shell casings in the cylinder. Mr. Robbins sustained an injury to his face and to the back side of his left shoulder. All wounds were minor. He was seen by paramedics at the scene and turned over to law enforcement. He was subsequently transported to a local hospital for treatment. While at the hospital he was interviewed by members of the Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team.
Mr. Robbins advised he was working as a Security Guard in that area of Martin Ferry Bridge. His job was to watch over the construction equipment that was staged on Highway 169. Mr. Robbins was armed with a handgun that was loaned to him by a friend. Mr. Robbins observed a vehicle approaching him on the bridge and he couldn’t see the occupants because of the headlights. He then reached back behind the seat, where the firearm was stored, and he brought the handgun to the dash and pointed it at the approaching vehicle. He believed the vehicle was just his “cousin messing with him.” He didn’t realize it was the Sheriff’s office until the gun fire erupted. He ducked down and waited for the gunfire to stop then he gave up. Mr. Robbins claimed he did not fire a round at the deputy sheriffs.
Mr. Robbins was booked into county jail for brandishing a loaded firearm at a peace officer. Mr. Robbins did not have a license to carry a loaded firearm in public or in a vehicle and he did not possess a concealed weapons permit with the county. Mr. Robbins’ construction company was contacted and they advised he was not supposed to be armed in the course of his security detail. At the conclusion of the investigations, charges will be requested with the District Attorney for carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle and brandishing a firearm at a Peace Officer.
This case is still under the investigation with the Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team. Members of the Eureka PD, Arcata PD, Humboldt County sheriff’s Office, District Attorney and State DOJ Criminologist are actively investigating the case. The Deputy Sheriff’s involved are placed on administrative leave pending the investigation. Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445- 7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268- 2539.